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I work in the HR department of a company that has 2300+ employees working in retail stores all around the country.

We have certain policies that need to be read and signed-off on by ALL employees, both new and existing.

Our current process is an administrative nightmare. I currently do the following:

  1. Copy a link from SharePoint (all our policies are stored within SharePoint)
  2. Paste the link (from SharePoint) into an e-mail, with relevant text asking them to read it and electronically sign the acknowledgement form.
  3. Wait.
  4. Go through my inbox to see who has sent me the acknowledgement forms, for those that haven't send reminders.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until I get everyone's acknowledgement form

It's a lot of administrative work, and those that never respond cause me to waste a lot of my time.

Is there a more efficient way to get all employees in a distributed company to read and sign-off on policies?

My position in the hierarchy is that I report to the HR Manager.

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Then delegate it out to heads in those areas and make them accountable. –  Simon O'Doherty Jan 24 '13 at 9:59
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This is a great question! This problem is a huge pain to deal with in the workplace. –  enderland Jan 24 '13 at 13:35
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I do not think this question is off topic though the way it is phrased is not constructive. I would suggest asking for a better process, but really this problem is one that you need to solve in your corporate culture. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 24 '13 at 14:29
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Hi Hannah, I've edited your question to move some of the information you posted in the comments to the question, and have rephrased parts of it to try and get it reopened. I've voted to reopen the question, however it still needs 4 other votes from other community members to get reopened. If I've made a mistake in my edit, please feel free to edit it further, or roll it back to a previous revision :) –  Rachel Jan 24 '13 at 15:56

6 Answers 6

First off I see two very different issues here and in truth two very different questions.

  1. How do I stop wasting my time on a very manual process?
  2. How do I get reluctant or hesitant employees to state that they read a policy?

In this particular case answering the first question may solve the vast majority of the second problem.

Your policies are already in SharePoint, it's archaic that you are following the manual process that you describe. In SharePoint you have the tools and infrastructure you need to easily automate this process.

SharePoint is quite capable of sending email, collecting input, and tracking user actions. It can also send the reminders necessary for those that haven't completed the process. A few hours of time by a SharePoint administrator could easily automate the whole process and relieve you of what's obviously a very tedious task.

Depending upon how SharePoint is integrated into your overall infrastructure you could also easily force an employee to complete a given action before allowing them to continue with their other daily work. For example a login action that opened the form every morning when they login to begin the workday.

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You want to leverage alerts. I believe you can sign other people up for alerts (a feature I informally called Alert Them when I requested it) so they would get an alert from SP when the document is added. If your requirement is only to prove you told them about the new policy you're done. Turn on Auditing Views in the document library and you can prove who read it and who didn't. In my firm, you don't get to agree/disagree with policy, you just have to read it, so I don't need them to sign anything saying they'll follow it: They Will Follow It. –  Kate Gregory Jan 25 '13 at 11:19

Stephen's answer is perfect from an automation standpoint - and he seems to know more about the nuances of Sharepoint than I do... but I agree that there is absolutely a way to have Sharepoint do everything you do now!

I wanted to add a though, though that you may want to advocate for reconsidering what you need signed and why. If you have things being signed very, very frequently you are likely inducing a lot of work for very little company benefit, because after too many signature request, people will start signing just about anything, which trumps the original goal of having an indication of receipt and comprehension.

I've seen companies triage their signed documents as follows for better effect:

  • we don't care if they agree, we just need to know they got it - consider a return-receipt format - doable in either Sharepoint or most corporate email clients. It doesn't require a digital signature, just proof of opening the mail. Great for cases where the truth is "we don't care if you agree, it's the rules"

  • we care that employees both got and are capable of following the new policy - instead of a signature, you may consider a quiz (annoying as it is). There are training systems out there that will let you structure this sort of format - the employee is presented with the policy and then answers a few "quiz" questions to show they read it and comprehend it. I've seen it used for high priority security policy, sexual harassment policy, safety rules and other things where the company deems it would be very bad if employees didn't follow the policy because they'd be hurting more people than just themselves.

  • we will terminate or take further action if the policy is not read and followed - you may consider including managers in your cycle of annoyance. Keep track of employees who didn't sign and ask their Manager to follow up. Make the Managers with tardy employees visible to senior management after the first ping to managers isn't successful. Make it be part of the organizational priority and make it clear that not signing the policy means not doing your job.

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@HLGEM, I do understand your point about signing policies that don't apply to you. But a key tenant in HR, discrimination cases, and labor law in general is that all employees are treated identically. Picking and choosing which policies that an employee is asked to read/sign could in itself be deemed as discrimination. –  Stephen Jan 25 '13 at 15:05

In the US you would have several choices, though you should have the corporate legal department review them to make sure they meet the law.

  1. Electronic delivery of the documents.
  2. Postal delivery of the documents with return receipt required. They have to sign for the document. US courts have held that the signature is enough to prove they got the documents. They could have thrown them in the trash, but that ism their choice to ignore the document they just signed for.

The key issue is what happens if they don't sign.

  • If they refuse to ever sign, does the policy still apply to them? for example annual reviews in the summer vs the spring.
  • Do they have to make a choice: Go with the new sick leave policy and earn X hours a week, or stay with the old policy and receive Y hours in a lump sum every year. New employees have no choice, they get the new policy.
  • Is there a cost to the new policy: For example now you have vision coverage and we need you to pick a doctor, but it cost money for the new coverage. No agreement means no coverage.

Sometimes you can use one of the forced delivery methods, with the letter saying that the new policy will start in 60 days. If you want to opt out do so with 30 days. Then move forward, keeping proof of delivery in each employees folder.

If employment is at will in your jurisdiction stubborn refusal to even acknowledge the policy is not a problem, it can be addressed by termination of employment.

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If don't mind looking at an inexpensive 3rd party solution then you may want to consider DocRead for SharePoint, it is perfect for you predicament!

DocRead allows you to send any document (in this case a policy) to one or more groups of users. As the publisher, it's upto you to set how long you would like employees (in those groups) to read and sign-off on those documents.

DocRead will also help with your onboarding as it cleverly detects if someone is new to a group and assigns them the reading that they other group members were given. You can set reading as 'Required' (Must Read) or 'Recommended' (Should Read).

We also have a suite of reports (accessble from SharePoint) that allow you to see who has and hasn't read your documents.

For every member of staff, who accepts (or doesn't accept) your document, we issue a receipt for auditting purposes.

Finally, we also automate all of the e-mails that get sent, when the document is assigned, confirmed and overdue.

If you want to know more, please take a look at DocRead for SharePoint, or for a more specific example, read 'How to get employees to read your staff handbook'.

disclaimer: I develop the DocRead for SharePoint product.

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would you mind explaining about this in more detail - how does it answer the question asked and why do you recommend this? "Link-only answers" are not quite welcome at Stack Exchange –  gnat Jan 25 '13 at 11:23
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Hi Mark - I have looked at your link and DocRead looks like it could help as we really need the sign-off from staff. Can i see it in action somewhere and how much does it cost ? –  Hannah Edwards Jan 25 '13 at 18:11
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I edited your answer and included your original copy. I think it fits well and we are not against promotion of a product so long as it answers the question. I believe this does. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 25 '13 at 19:32

I've used incentives for this sort of thing before, such as "everyone who reads and signs before X date is entered into a draw for an extra day's holiday, bottle of champagne, dinner-for-two voucher, whatever". Minimal cost, and important to pick something that will have broad appeal to your workforce.

I've also left clangers in policies to find out who actually reads them (as opposed to just signing to say they've read them) either in the form of delibarete errers or in one case I'm particularly proud of, including a clause that stated that each member of staff would cultivate a beard. This was in a primary school with an all-female staff...

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My company (and other large companies where I have worked) has software to handle this sort of "a response is required" situation.

We get notice via email of new and changed policies. We are directed to a website where we must read the policy, and "sign off" by clicking a button at the bottom of the document. That "sign off" is recorded in the system.

If an individual has not signed off by the designated time, a nasty-gram is sent to the individual and the individual's manager. The nasty-gram is repeated until the sign off is recorded, and is escalated up the management ranks as time progresses.

This seems to be effective in eventually getting sign offs.

What it doesn't do is ensure that anyone actually reads and understands the document, since most people just quickly scroll to the end and click the sign off button. To "solve" that problem, the company has a similar mechanism which also includes "quizzes" with passing grades. That method is used for more extensive policies, and for annual regulatory compliance needs.

As a non-HR person, it all seems rather silly to me, but it seems to achieve whatever it is that HR is trying to accomplish.

You should talk with your IT department about such systems. They may already have one, or could do a search for a system which meets your needs at your budget. I know that there are some you could build, some you could purchase for running internally, and some that are hosted externally.

Good luck.

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